Impeachment Chronicles 2
“When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; and when Rome falls – the world.” So wrote Lord Byron, describing the notion of an impossibly apocalyptic event, the collapse of a hyperpower whose survival anchored all surrounding global relations.
This past week, the American constitution, as signature a part of what it means to be an American as the Coliseum was to Rome, came under sustained assault by the president and his Congressional enablers. And, as it did, a global order painstakingly fashioned over the better part of a century, arguably entered its final frenetic period of unraveling.
Faced with an impeachment inquiry because of his pressuring the Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for the granting of security assistance, Trump doubled down and publicly called upon not just the Ukraine but also China to investigate the Biden family. To repeat what should be obvious: soliciting foreign intervention in a U.S. election is illegal. The House doesn’t need months of hearings to impeach Trump; he’s provided all the evidence they need, and done so in plain view.
Trump doesn’t know how to back down or how to retreat in the face of a self-created crisis. His whole life, he has always blustered and bludgeoned and bullied, intimidated and threatened and strong-armed his way out of trouble. And the same holds now, in the face of almost certain impeachment. America’s forty-fifth president accused House investigators of treason; mused that the whistleblower who reported his phone conversation with Ukrainian president Zelensky ought to be treated as a spy and executed; tweeted out ominous threats claiming that his impeachment would result in civil war – threats taken to heart by groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Minutemen, which have been gearing up for violence to protect Trump’s presidency since the day he assumed office; and went on a series of extraordinarily coarse, paranoid tirades accusing the Democrats of a “BULLSHIT” conspiracy against him.
Donald Trump is now in a place that Richard Nixon never ventured into. Nixon implausibly denied that he had committed crimes – right up until he was forced to resign in the face of overwhelming evidence that he had in fact committed crimes. Trump isn’t even pretending innocence. He’s committing one crime after another in plain sight, daring Congress to rein him in, and banking on the fact that his cultist followers will sustain him through an impeachment inquiry and then a Senate trial. He’s ensnaring pretty much every senior Cabinet member in his schemes, ensuring that the State Department, the Pentagon, the Justice Department, Vice President Pence, all are implicated in his illegalities.
If Trump is right, and if his rancid presidency survives in the face of overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, he will have entirely neutered the constitutional mechanisms for bringing to heel a rogue executive. He will have burst through the final constraints, and in all but name established a dictatorship; and it will be one sustained by the perennial threat of armed intervention should he choose to call out his militias and paramilitaries to back up his increasingly extremist, irrationalist, Administration.
Daily the urgency of ending this cancer of a presidency grows. Daily, despite lacking any popular mandate for the locking down of America, his Administration rolls out more extreme policies against immigrants. On Friday, by “proclamation,” Trump announced that, using national security legal rationales, from here on in would-be immigrants will be denied visas if they cannot prove that, within thirty days of arrival in the United States, they will be able to purchase their own private health insurance.
This isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, simply a regulatory tweak; it is the wholesale reshaping of decades of immigration policy without any congressional input whatsoever. Such is not the stuff of democracies.
Nor is Trump’s reported longing for the army to be able to stand guard on the border with bayonets fixed; for border patrol agents to be encouraged to shoot immigrants in the legs; for families who manage to climb atop his “Great Wall” to be impaled upon spikes; and for those seeking to swim across the border to be eaten by alligators imported into the Rio Grande and man-made moats along the wall. These are the fantasies of a madman, a psychopath drunk on his own power and longing to satiate his peculiar blood lusts.
The lesson Trump took from his surviving the Mueller investigation was that the normal rules don’t apply to his administration. The lesson he will take if he survives impeachment is that the hindrances of checks and balances are entirely disposable, entirely bendable to his will and his whim.
Trump is deeply wounded, but he is not yet finished. There is, now, nothing more important than that he be brought down. Not just censured; not just impeached and then acquitted. No, for the survival of the Republic, and of the constitutional system that has provided a governing structure for the United States throughout its history, he must be entirely destroyed as a political force. He must be so thoroughly discredited, so thoroughly humbled, so eviscerated politically that the ghastly personality cult upon which he floats is finally eradicated.
Anything less will leave Trump a dictator in all but name and will validate an era of lawlessness in American politics the like of which the country has not previously seen. The global system that relies on the United States as a linchpin will not survive such an implosion of American democratic politics. It would fully usher in global lawlessness and chaos every bit as devastating globally as Trumpism is proving to be domestically.
— Sasha Abramsky